In the same spirit and celebratory atmosphere of the Christmas season, the Midwestern Seminary community celebrated the culmination of its students’ hard work, dedication, and perseverance, as the school held its 66th commencement exercises on Dec. 6.
Additionally, President Jason Allen announced that the seminary will begin a series of messages—during graduation and convocation service addresses over the next couple of years—focusing on specific doctrinal topics of urgency and relevance.
Two hundred and five students were conferred 222 degrees and began their ministry service as the next generation of pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders. With the enrollment increases the school has made, now surpassing 4,000 students, the number of graduates has also increased, up from the 169 students who graduated this time last year.
Midwestern Seminary also celebrated a noteworthy milestone during the commencement ceremony, as 29 Spanish-speaking church planters earned their Church Planting Certificates. Two of those graduates also received their Master’s in Theological Studies with an emphasis on Pastoral Ministry.
Felix Cabrera, assistant professor of pastoral ministry and Spanish church relations coordinator, helped pioneer the certificate program in 2017. “What happened today is epic and historic. The pilot program is no longer a pilot,” Cabrera shared. “Ministerial experience combined with theological education is an ideal scenario for these pastors who serve in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Paraguay, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico.”
“We cannot be more pleased that these men have worked so hard and accomplished so much through our Spanish Language programs,” Allen said. “This is ‘for the Church’ in action, as they will now go and establish local churches and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Kicking off the 10-part graduation/convocation sermon series focusing on significant, urgent doctrinal issues—including topics such as the sufficiency of Scripture, the exclusivity of the gospel, and penal substitutionary atonement—Allen noted there’s no better place to begin than with biblical inerrancy. As such, he preached a message from Jude entitled, “Truths Worth Contending For: Biblical Inerrancy.”
Allen acknowledged that commencement is an ideal setting to focus on the topic of inerrancy because it’s the “biggest, grandest stage that we have to offer, and our topic today, biblical inerrancy, merits such a stage.”
He added that, as Southern Baptists, there is never a wrong time to reassert, cling to, and contend for one of our central and foundational truths.
Allen defined biblical inerrancy as the belief that the Bible is without error. “It’s an argument for the truthfulness of God’s word. It is divinely inspired, comprehensively truthful and, thus, authoritative for life and doctrine. It is from this inerrant Word that we can know our inerrant savior, Jesus Christ.”
A primary focus in the book of Jude is for believers to “contend earnestly for the faith, which was once and for all entrusted to God’s people.” Allen explained that to “contend” here takes on an athletic or military sense, referring to a struggle or an intense effort. The concept is to fight for truth because it must be passed down and preserved for future generations.
“The responsibility is personal. You’d contend for food for your children. You contend for the truth for the church, for the spiritual well-being of the saints…The truth is what Christians ought to contend for.”
Another topic addressed was the problems that could arise if Scripture possessed flaws. He related the answer to a family’s genealogy saying, “Interesting thing about those family trees, if you inaccurately confirm a relative who isn’t a relative, then the next one in line isn’t accurate, and it sends you off on a tangent of people that none of which are your ancestors.
“Error is kind of like that. If the Bible is impure at its fountainhead, if the Bible was errant as given by God, then imagine the corruption and inaccuracies that have accumulated along the way.”
Allen also countered those who suggest the term inerrancy should be avoided because it requires careful definition. To that end, then, he said we need to work to clarify and define the term as clearly as possible.
“Let me remind us this morning, if you avoid a word because it needs careful definition, there will be precious few theological words left that matter in theology or any other discipline, inerrancy is an essential word.”
Turning to the question of whether the word inerrancy matters, Allen concluded that it absolutely does.
“It’s not just an appropriate word, it’s an essential one,” Allen said. “It’s an indispensable theological term because it is more difficult to nuance away. Like other words that erstwhile did speak to the superiority and truthfulness of the Bible—words like inspiration, infallibility, and authority—the truthfulness of Scripture indeed has been a consistent belief of the confessing church throughout its history.”
In concluding his message, Allen covered eight points as to why there must be an inerrant Bible including: the Bible’s self-attestation to its own truthfulness throughout Scripture—thus, it’s worthy of our care and obedience; if we can’t trust the Bible at every point, we can’t trust it at any point; Scripture’s authority is eroded if inerrancy is questioned; a Bible that can’t be trusted gives us a God who can’t be trusted; we need an inerrant Bible to know and follow Christ accurately; the history of theological and denominational decline reminds us of the centrality of inerrancy; and inerrancy undergirds evangelism and missions and the exclusivity of Christ.
On his eighth, and final point, Allen asked, “Why do we need an inerrant Scripture?” In answering, he said, “Our cultural moment demands a sure word, and the more counter-cultural our Christian witness is, the more pressure the church feels. But inerrancy is a simplifying truth. If you will decide that once and for all, and believe it with all that you are, it will simplify a thousand other doctrinal and ministerial conversations and topics that you encounter along the way.”
To view Allen’s commencement address, visit mbts.edu/2019/12/sixty-sixth-commencement-address.
To learn more about Midwestern’s Spanish Language programs, visit mbts.edu/espanol.